540 Technologies Helps Water Utility in Florida's Panhandle After Hurricane Michael

Assists Orlando Utilities Commission With Emergency Response in Bay County

July 18, 2019

In the hours and days following Hurricane Michael's October 11, 2018, landfall as a Category 4 storm, utility crews began working to restore power and water to the Florida Panhandle. When the state tapped Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), its second largest utility, to help restore water to Bay County residents and businesses, OUC officials called on 540 Technologies to assist with the effort.

Those overseeing the operation saw an opportunity to leverage smart technology that could show the exact location of any underground pipe leaks or breaks that may have resulted from the storm. They also wanted an onsite expert in that technology to help lead the process.

Jesse Morris, a Technical Sales Consultant with 540 Technologies, was at his home in Orlando when he received the call. Morris had previously supplied water-loss management solutions to staff at OUC.

"After the hurricane, my customer at OUC wanted to use data correlators to locate water line breaks in Bay County," said Morris. "He told me he needed my expertise in the field."

Morris responded without hesitation. He quickly cleared his schedule for the next three days, gathered the correlator and other items he needed for the trip and drove the 360 miles to Bay County. He arrived at the site within 12 hours and saw the devastation firsthand.

"The damage was unbelievable," said Morris. "Every other tree seemed to have been snapped in two. Every house had roof damage. Power poles had snapped like toothpicks. It was a terrible scene."

Morris quickly connected with OUC and Bay County water officials and went to work.

Offering a range of technology solutions backed by extensive customer support and training, 540 Technologies partners with leading-edge equipment manufacturers in a variety of sectors to bring customers the most effective solutions for their applications. In this case, the application was leak detection and pinpointing, and the partner was Fluid Conservation Systems, which makes the TriCorr Touch Pro high-performance data correlator that OUC wanted for its water-restoration operation. Using acoustic technology, the TriCorr can identify the exact location of even small water leaks within 12 inches of their source.

To avoid potential washouts that can occur when trees uprooted in a storm cause breaks in underground water lines, Bay County officials had turned off water service to the area before the storm hit. Now, they had to restore service slowly, turning on pumps to the nearest valve, and checking to see if water pressure in the pipe remained constant. If it didn't, that would indicate a break somewhere along the line. That's where Morris and his TriCorr came in.

"We did this to isolate sections of their network so we could easily see if any parts of the distribution system were compromised," said Morris, who worked alongside the crews for two days. "All of the pipes we checked held their pressure."

Morris then trained two of the utility's employees in operating the TriCorr and allowed them to borrow the device as they worked to restore water service deeper into Panama City to all of the affected areas.

Shawn Pulford, CEO of 540 Technologies, said that what Morris did in Florida's panhandle is consistent with how 540 Technologies operates.

"We're committed to going above and beyond for our customers," said Pulford. "Communities depend on their utilities – days, nights, weekends – especially in the aftermath of natural disasters. They know they can count on 540 Technologies to answer their call and be there to help when and where they need us."


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